Page 1: Biography
Military volunteer, sportsman
This biography, written by John D. Wills, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Edwin Davy, the son of Anna Maria Smart and her husband, Edwin Davy, was born on 9 September 1850 in Taranaki, New Zealand, where his parents farmed at Waiwhakaiho. Educated at Wesley College and St John's College, Auckland, he had intended to follow his father's profession as surveyor and civil engineer. In 1870, however, after his father's death, he entered the Auckland inspector's office of the Bank of New Zealand. Davy transferred to Grahamstown, Thames, at the end of 1872, and resigned late the following year. Service with the Armed Constabulary in Waikato in 1875 and 1876 was followed in 1877 by a move to Wellington where he became a railways audit clerk. His marriage, on 24 January 1900 at Wellington, to May Watson, the daughter of an Australian civil servant, was short-lived and she returned to Melbourne three months later. There were no children of this marriage and Davy did not marry again.
In 1871 Edwin Davy started a remarkable career in the military volunteer forces which existed in New Zealand from 1858 until the establishment of the Territorial Force in 1910. Local volunteer corps (infantry, cavalry and artillery) received capitation grants from the government, and elected their own officers. Davy initially joined the Onehunga Rifle Volunteers as a private, before being elected honorary captain of the Onehunga Rifle Volunteer Cadets the following year. In 1873 he was elected honorary captain of the Thames Scottish Rifle Volunteer Cadet Corps, his captaincy being made substantive in November 1874. On arrival in the capital, he transferred to the Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteers with which unit he was sent to Parihaka to assist the government forces in the arrest of Te Whiti and his followers. He transferred to the Petone Naval Artillery Volunteers in 1886 and three years later was appointed lieutenant commander. In 1895 the Wellington and Petone Naval Artillery Volunteers amalgamated and in 1896 Davy became commander of the new Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteer Brigade. In recognition of his volunteer service he was awarded the Imperial Volunteer Officers' Decoration, the Imperial Volunteer Long Service Medal and the New Zealand Volunteer Long and Efficient Service Medal.
On being advised that he was of too high a rank to be eligible to serve with the New Zealand contingents in the South African war, Davy sought, and was granted, a reduction in rank to captain and sailed with the Fourth (Rough Riders) Contingent to South Africa in March 1900. In February 1901, at Klerksdorp in Transvaal, he contracted enteric fever and spent the rest of the year travelling home and convalescing. In April 1902 he sailed again for South Africa, with the North Island regiment of the 10th Contingent. He was promoted to the rank of major commanding the 1st Battalion in June, shortly before the contingent returned to New Zealand. For his service he received the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps.
After the war he returned to the Railway Department. He remained on the New Zealand Militia Active List until being transferred to the Retired List in 1910. At the outbreak of the First World War Davy, then 65, commenced a personal campaign of letter writing to ministers and generals seeking an active service posting overseas, even offering to provide his own kit and horses. His age, however, precluded him and he spent the rest of the war as staff adjutant for the Wellington Military District of the National Reserve.
Edwin Davy, 'Ned' in rugby circles, also excelled at sports. His prowess in many field events and his shooting skills won him prizes and acclaim wherever he competed. On the rugby field he represented Wellington as half-back from 1877 until 1880, in 1883, and in 1884 when he was selected for the first New Zealand team to tour New South Wales. He played three games, scoring one try. For the next three years he served as secretary-treasurer of the Wellington Rugby Football Union and on the management committee of the union at various times until 1898.
In 1891 Davy, together with 12 other notable Wellingtonians, founded the Junior Wellington Club which in 1898 adopted its current name, the Wellesley Club. Edwin Davy died of heart disease at Khandallah, Wellington, on 22 May 1935.